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‘No Child Left Behind’ Overhaul Hits a Speed Bump

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (left) and ranking member Mike Enzi (right) have run into conflict with Sen. Rand Paul over the timing for considering changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

The bipartisan effort to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act hit a major speed bump Wednesday when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) shut down a markup of the bill after complaining that it was being rushed through.

Paul, who opposes No Child Left Behind and has proposed abolishing the Department of Education, complained the bill was being railroaded through the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with no public hearings or time to read the bill.

Paul objected to continuing the markup for longer than two hours ó Senate rules require unanimous consent for the committee to meet longer than two hours.

"I find it a tragedy that we are operating here in the Senate by introducing an 868-page bill with 48 hours to read it, approximately 1,000 pages worth of amendments to this bill with virtually no time to read or think about the amendments," he said, adding, "I think it's precisely what's wrong with this body."

The bipartisan deal reached by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) after months of negotiating has the potential for a rare bout of legislating in a gridlocked Congress. The 2001 act, considered one of the landmark achievements of President George W. Bush, created a series of national standards for student achievement that have been extremely controversial and difficult for school districts to meet. Harkin and Enzi are working on a bill that would streamline the mandates the No Child Left Behind legislation created for school districts.

But Paul complained there have been no hearings on the bill this year.

"As I go around my state and I talk to teachers, I've yet to meet one teacher who's in favor of No Child Left Behind. They abhor it. They hate all the stuff we are telling them what to do from Washington," he said.

"I feel pushed aside. ... All I am asking for is a hearing to listen to teachers. Should we not listen to the teachers? A hearing to listen to the superintendents. A hearing to listen to the principals. Let them read the bill and find out what's in the bill."

Paul said Harkin and Enzi didn't consult with him on the bill, either. "Who's been involved in crafting this legislation? I'm on the committee. Nobody asked me, nobody consulted with me, and I think that's the same with most of the people on the committee."

Paul's comments irked Harkin, who said the committee had 10 hearings on the bill last year.

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